Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Pre- and perinatal risk factors

Effects of maternal smoking, premature birth, intra-uterine growth retardation and asphyxia on child development.

Stephanus Huijbregts
LUF Gratama Grant


This programme focuses on two different but related pre-/perinatal factors that constitute serious risks for behavioural and cognitive development:

  • Intra-Uterine Growth Retardation (IUGR)/low birth weight and
  • prenatal tobacco exposure.

Both are related to specific cognitive problems. For example, IUGR is related to memory and executive function problems, whereas prenatal tobacco exposure appears to be related to emotion regulation.

In current studies, we investigate the role of (social) cognitive impairments in associations between pre- and perinatal risks and behaviour problems (e.g., elevated aggression in children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy; hyperactivity-inattention in children born with IUGR). We also investigate combinations with other risk factors (e.g. prenatal tobacco exposure and parental antisocial behaviour; IUGR and COMT-gene polymorphisms).

Furthermore, we study neurobiological systems that could be affected by pre-/perinatal insults (e.g. the stress system following prenatal tobacco exposure), and the role of altered functioning of such systems in associations with cognitive and behavioural problems.

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